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State lawmakers working to crack down on unsolicited, explicit photos

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Lawmakers are considering a bill that would crack down on cyber-flashing, unsolicited pictures that often pop up on smartphones.

Real-estate agents are often glued to their phones so they can respond quickly to text messages and emails. And, that's a phenomenon that Delegate Kelly Convirs-Fowler of Virginia Beach knows well from her day job as a Realtor. That’s how she got an unsolicited, obscene text from a contractor.

"At the time I didn't respond because I was kind of in shock," she explains.

So she tried to do something about it, and she got a bill out of the House last year but it was rejected in the Senate.

“It’s a very scary feeling for a woman because you don’t know where it came from, you don’t know how the person got your number, and you don’t know why you’re seeing what you’re seeing,” says Convirs-Fowler.

Now she's working with Senator Jennifer McClellan of Richmond to figure out a way to make it a civil penalty.

"This bill would make it a civil penalty where you could get an injunction or you could get actual damages or $500, whichever is greater," McClellan says. "I'm confident we will be able to move it forward. But we're got to do something."

The House has already rejected the version Convirs-Folwer introduced. But McClellan is still working the bill on the Senate side.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.